London fire delays deal between Tories and DUP

Agreement reportedly close, despite Conservative MPs' misgivings about possible damage to party image

Theresa May at No 10
Prime Minister Theresa May enters No 10 after addressing the media following the general election
(Image credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

An agreement between the Tories and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) could be delayed until next week after the Grenfell Tower fire in London.

DUP sources told the BBC the blaze had made an immediate announcement "inappropriate".

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They added that the two parties were finalising the "terms and conditions" of an agreement following a meeting between Theresa May and DUP leader Arlene Foster yesterday.

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Another party source told the Guardian the unionists were seeking to make May's government’s policies “more compassionate” across the UK.

"They said the DUP was attempting to dilute austerity measures and defend things like the triple lock on pensions in its negotiations," added the paper.

BBC chief political correspondent Norman Smith says the deal "will be top loaded with economic rather than political matters", including a cut in corporation tax for Northern Ireland.

"Some political issues, such as altering the definition of a Troubles victim or doing away with allowances for MPs who don't take up their seats, might be included," he adds.

However, it is believed that several Tories are unhappy about dealing with the DUP. According to Sebastian Payne of the Financial Times, the MPs are "worried about the damage to the party's image", as well as any problems it could cause to the Good Friday Agreement.

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Tory grandee Ken Clarke - who said in 2010: "You can always do a deal with Ulstermen, but it's not the way to run a modern sophisticated society" - told Radio 4's Today programme this morning that any deal "must not contain any sectarian demands."

Former Conservative prime minister John Major went further and argued any arrangement was "completely unnecessary" given the DUP's outright resistance to a Jeremy Corbyn-led government.

He also warned it would cost the party "a bucketload" of votes as British voters would reject the unionists' socially-conservative views.

Paul Waugh of the Huffington Post also questions the impact a deal could have on the Conservatives.

"Although Foster insists her party is not homophobic, will its views further damage the Tory brand among young and centrist voters?" he writes.

"The woman who vowed to transform 'the nasty party' could well re-toxify it. But that's how desperate May is to cling on to power."

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